South Korean erotic film fest restricts women

Seoul, Nov 04: Erotic movies are making a tentative comeback in South Korea, where they were banned as recently as the late 1990s.

The second annual Pink Film Festival, which kicked off in Seoul on Saturday, is bringing movies to the big screen that were previously available only from vendors` carts in the city`s backstreets.

But there are still limits to Korea`s nascent openness. For starters, the monthlong festival is open to women only on opening night in each of the four cities where the festival will travel this month and on designated "couples days" -- Wednesdays and Saturdays.

Female moviegoers, for their part, seem to be disappointed that the films are not racy enough.

The festival of Japanese pinku eiga, or pink film, celebrates an erotic genre of satire that came of age in Japan`s indie film scene in the 1960s. But South Korea long banned not only erotic films, but also those from Japan -- a reflection of the government`s distaste for cultural influences from its colonial ruler during the early part of the 20th century.

Under South Korea`s military regime in the 1960s, lewdness became a central concern for the country`s censors. The state controlled the number of films allowed to shoot each year and inspected all scripts.

These traditions continued through the late `90s, even after the country`s courts ruled that censorship violated the Korean constitution.

The censorship debate peaked in 1999, when the government`s Media Rating Board blocked the release of a Korean film depicting sexual relations between a schoolgirl and a sculptor. "Lies" finally was released after cutting 17 minutes.

Korean openness to eroticism and nudity on film has evolved with the times, but still is colored by a degree of modesty.

A 28-year-old female fan of Japanese genre films said she was left disappointed by Hidekazu Takahara`s "Tsumugi," about a schoolgirl seducing her married teacher.

"It was nowhere near the level of adult content you see on the Internet nowadays," she said.

Also included in this year`s lineup are Kazuhiro Sano`s "Don`t Let It Bring You Down," Osamu Sato`s "Slave" and a special screening in the "pink hard core" section of a director`s cut of Mitsuru Meike`s political satire "Glamorous Life of Sachiko Hanai."

Bureau Report